Is Top Gear Incorrect to Present Tesla Model S Performance from 2019, Using Results from 2017?


Published on October 31, 2019 |
by Dr. Maximilian Holland

31. October 2019 by Dr. Maximilian Holland

Top Gear recently launched a top-to-head comparison between the 201[ads1]9 Tesla Model S Performance and the Porsche Taycan Turbo S, and wisely concludes that they are both good performance cars with different goals and strengths. While the video notes that both cars are more than fast enough in the real world, the data that Top Gear used to represent Tesla in 2019 appears to be copied unchanged from a 2017 Top Gear review by a previous generation of Model S. What's with it?

Yesterday Top Gear gave the video segment and looked at “Raven” Tesla Model S Performance and Porsche Taycan Turbo S in terms of performance, road selection, daily practicality and charging. The overall review was reasonably balanced, and concluded that Tesla has advantages in reach, space, practicality, technology and charging infrastructure. Taycan has advantages in good sportsmanship, handling and "driver's car" characteristics.

With these distinctions and the significant price difference between the two, Top Gear concludes that these two high performance capabilities are not in direct competition with each other, but rather that both compete well with fossil-fueled "alternatives".

An important anomaly in the video was the data used to represent Tesla's acceleration and quarter mile. It appears to be single copy-pasted from a two year old Top Gear review of the older (and slightly slower) 2017 Model S P100D:

Tesla Model S Performance data presented by BBC Top Gear in 2017 and 2019 (Author graphics / Remix)

The probability of the exact same times – identical across 4 different measurements – Recurring purely by coincidence is one of the order of 1 in 100,000. The host of Drag Times Brooks, who has a lot of experience with accurate performance of cars for acceleration and quarter kilometers, has also weighed into. He agrees that it is highly unlikely that the times recorded in the field in 2019 would be an exact match for the results of the 2017 test.

Brooks, who has owned a number of Model S Performance versions in recent years ( among a wide variety of combustion supercars), also notes a number of technical discrepancies in the way Top Gear tested the Tesla Model S Performance from 2019 "Raven". He raises important questions about whether Tesla was actually tested in its fastest "Max Battery Power" driving mode or not:

We don't yet have all the answers to what's going on here. There was another discrepancy around top speed on Tesla – Top Gear said it was 155 mph, while Tesla shows it as 163 mph (it has been 155 mph for earlier versions of the car). This may have simply been the reason for testing the circumstances of the day, but – once again – the way it was communicated by Top Gear does not give much confidence in the actual accuracy of BBC video.

Top Gear has famously used "dramatic license" to (negatively) fictionalize the performance of Tesla's vehicles in the past. However, it was a long time ago, with largely another team at the helm, and since then there has been a lot of positive coverage of Teslas and EV in general. The discrepancies in the last video could have been unfortunate (and unprofessional) errors, rather than deliberate misrepresentations of Tesla's performance.

We know that both Model S and Taycan have more performance than can safely be used in 99% of daily driving scenarios when sharing roads with others. However, the performance data presented by Top Gear which is an exact match with the data they presented two years ago for another generation of Model S certainly needs some clarification.

I have tweeted to Jack Rix, a BBC Top Gear deputy manager and the host of this specific video, about the duplicate data issue. He has not yet responded. The BBC which is a publicly funded broadcaster, has strict guidelines for the accuracy of content, so we will probably get some clarity over time. Watch this place!

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Tags: BBC Top Gear, Drag Times, Jack Rix, Porsche Taycan Turbo S, Tesla Model S Performance, top gear

About the author

Dr. Maximilian Holland Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, who tries to question and encourage critical thinking about social and environmental justice, sustainability and human condition. He has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, and is currently based in Barcelona. Follow Max on twitter @Dr_Maximilian and on, or contact him via LinkedIn.

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